Major over-thinking followed by a minor epiphany

If I had to break down my process for revising my brand statement this week and moving into the realm of storytelling, it would work out to about 85% wallowing in introspection and over-thinking, 12% frantic mad-dash rush to produce something, and 3% post-all-nighter epiphanic “OH! I get it!” moment. All in all, not a very successful or well-planned approach. But I did learn a few things, at least.

In the midst of my vortex of inward thought, I tried to break out of it by getting some outside perspective; I made up a little survey about how others see me and asked my friends and former teachers to fill it out for me. It was only three questions, asking first, to choose three adjectives that describe me, second, to name the biggest strength and weakness in my work or way of thinking, and third, to complete the thoughts: “I know you care about…” and “I think you should be…”. I spent some time (probably too much) gathering, grouping, and distilling the responses. Below is the word cloud I generated from the results.

With these words in mind, I sat down to rewrite my brand statement. Last week it was declared too academic and not actually saying anything, which is true, but still hard to confront. It means that this week I had to cut the crap and actually make a statement about what I believe in. “Less ‘I am’ and more ‘I am about’,” as we were advised. After many iterations, here’s what I’ve got right now:

I believe that design is a process that is strategic, creative, and participatory, and I’m passionate about using it to tackle social and environmental problems.

The next step was to make a story out of this statement. For me that meant trying to be concise and compelling, in plain language, without hiding behind big words and long sentences. In order to visualize it, I relied on photos more than sketches, which was a cop-out that I’ll have to cut out in my next iteration. For now, though, I made a short video to present my story (somewhat) dynamically. See it at the link below.

What I Believe

Meanwhile, besides all of this delving into my own values and ideas, I had to take on the task of visualizing two other stories as well; one, the story of another classmate, and the other, a visualization of a process. For the first, I interviewed Cheyenne about her most recent artwork, and used her story to infer a statement about her process. I visualized it as below; the background image and type tell the story of the sculpture, while the foreground text is my interpretation of her process.

Cheyenne's Story

The second visualization, of a process, was much less involved. I chose a simple, anecdotal process to illustrate, inspired by Jaime’s having interviewed me about my experiences as an ESL teacher:

How to Explain Peanut Butter

It wasn’t until after all of that, and after waking up from my 2.5 hours of sleep last night, that the point of the “Not ‘I am’ but ‘I am about’,” advice got through to me. I’d been so resistant to letting go of what I was trying to capture in my first version of my brand statement, because I felt that my new statement just didn’t capture everything about me. This morning it very suddenly occurred to me that it doesn’t have to. Of course, right? I’m not trying to express every single nuance about myself all smashed up into a little nugget of wordiness. I’m just trying to express the essence of what motivates me to do what I do (or try to do what I want to do). Not that that’s easy, but it seems a whole lot easier than how I was approaching it until now. Here’s hoping the next iteration will come out more smoothly.

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